February 27, 2008

Mutating Libraries

Filed under: precat — tsladmin @ 10:21 pm

Slate has an interesting slideshow with the slightly misleading title Borrowed Time: How Do You Build a Public Library in the Age of Google. I say misleading, only because the author literally means “build,” as in physical building. It doesn’t take into account staff or any web-based services at all, so why even mention Google? Even though it’s an incomplete picture, I found the last slide especially interesting.

“Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He’s probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.”

I missed Dawson’s original post about the extinction timeline last year, so it was news to me that libraries will disappear in just 11 years. I tend to agree more with the Slate author because for me, libraries are about a lot more than just books or study carrels. That’s why I think there’s room for things like gaming in today’s library. (Thanks, Dad!)


  1. […] The Shifted Librarian Írta: daniel.takacs Kategória: […]

    Pingback by élet és könyvtár » Hogyan tervezzünk könyvtárat a Google korában? — February 29, 2008 @ 4:33 am

  2. […] Jenny Levine points out that this essay focuses almost completely on the physical space libraries occupy, completely ignoring the web as an aspect of our services. Frustrating as it may be, this is a persistent symptom of public opinion and press coverage of libraries in general. While we scramble to redefine ourselves and transform old services using new models, most people still think of libraries as they have existed physically for so long – buildings and books – and will likely continue to do so, with incremental change, for the forseeable future. Library buildings are culturally powerful as physical spaces, and ones that most people maintain strong connections/aversions to and memories of throughout their lifetimes, which I believe is one reason our attempts at “rebranding” have to date been so difficult. As such, libraries of all kinds have become choice targets for sweeping predictions about radical cultural change brought about by social digitization – we remain fixed in place, conservative, and traditional in the minds of most, despite plenty of (well-concealed?) evidence to the contrary. I just wish that we were credited for our undeniable staying power as sitting ducks a bit more often. […]

    Pingback by slate covers library extinction, architecture. « infomational — February 29, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  3. The Slate piece begins to suggest that the future of the physical library is in the opportunity to bring people together for a face-to-face exchange, rather than as portal to information. That seems right to me, and a concept rife with future potential.
    However, these strike me as questionable statements:
    “Retro ballparks have enjoyed success with the public, but I’m not sure that trying to re-create the library-as-monument has an equal appeal.”
    As I recall, library patronage statistics, as measured by physical visits to tangible library buildings, exceedes attendance at a all major league sports events combined.
    “…users were a mix of students, tourists, and street people—many reading newspapers, even more using the computer consoles, very few in the stacks.”
    In Seattle, that would be characterized as a library planning success story, since no one intended for patrons to linger in the stacks.

    Comment by Jeff Hoover — February 29, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  4. […] The Shifted Librarian pointed me to Rybczynski who asks “What sort of public library does the “digital world” of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle require?  Even though he is speaking about public libraries, I think his answer also relates to how school libraries are changing as well.  In response to Ross Dawson, a business consultant who speculates that public libraries will disappear by 2019, Rybczynski says that “in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent.  This has less to do with the digital world–or the digital word–than with the age-old need for human contact.”  As the nature of communication changes, so does the nature of libraries including school libraries.  […]

    Pingback by What is the Impact of Virtual Libraries on Physical Space? « InfoTech4Lrng — March 2, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  5. Library conferences are currently stressing the changing roles of libraries in the 21st century. No longer do librarians wear their hair in a bun and learn 50 ways to say SHHHHHH. Anyone who thinks that hasn’t been to a library lately. We provide public computers, gaming tournaments, reading programs for all ages, computer classes, meeting rooms,teen activities and more. We also provide books for those who still enjoy a good read. Libraries will change but they will not fade away.

    Comment by LibraryLady in LlamaLland — March 5, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  6. An important line in the Dawson ‘Extinction Timeline’ post you linked to is the last one:
    “And of course, please don’t take this too seriously :-).”
    Which begs the question of whether he REALLY thinks libraries, etc. will disappear within my lifetime.

    Comment by Kurt — March 7, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  7. Thanks for very interesting article. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more. So please keep up the great work. Greetings.

    Comment by Gartendusche — March 11, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  8. […] peraltro possono cambiare, ridefinendo a cascata i contenuti, e le distanze. Ovvio, in questo mondo le biblioteche si estinguono :-). Non lo sguardo, però. Quale? Proviamo a leggere questo – lo scontato Tao Te Ching nel suo […]

    Pingback by La forma delle reti « ServiziBibliograficiDigitali — March 11, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  9. I do agree………libraries are more than books…….they will survive…………

    Comment by Vectorpedia (Rick) — March 14, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  10. […] While I love reading headlines like Christies Sells Buddha Sculpture for $14.3 Million and about Mutating Libraries, I think I will have to sample and prune my selections to a more manageable […]

    Pingback by RSS Feed Me, Sucka! : J.C.’s Blog — March 19, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

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